When it comes to wine, the French, Spanish or Italian regions traditionally dominate the market (and supermarket shelves). But over the last few years interest in English wine has been picking up and is increasingly highly regarded.
Popping open a champagne from a famous vineyard might add a sense of occasion, but there are plenty of award-winning sparkling wines on the market that are often a fraction of the cost, and many are grown from Sussex and Kent vineyards. Factors like a shifting warmer climate have contributed to the increase in English wine production and - thanks to the passion of a small number of dedicated producers and growers - its popularity on the British and global market is growing.
Traditionally English sparkling wines have led the way, but recent years have seen an increase in excellent still wines too. The majority of English wine comes from grapes suited to cool climates such as bacchus, chardonnay or pinot noir.
Whether you are topping up mimosas on Christmas morning, or pairing with meals, canapés or cheese boards, decadent food calls out for a carefully selected wine to match the occasion. Likewise, the chorus of a New Year’s Eve countdown has to conclude with at least one or two pops of a bottle of something fizzy.
We’ve tested a range of English wines from sparkling to still and across a range of different grape varieties. Here are some of the best bottles to enjoy during festive eating and drinking this year.
Woolton Chardonnay Pet-Nat 2020
Woolton Farm produces award-winning ciders and wines from their Kent farm. This chardonnay is Pet Nat (short for Petillant Natural), which is a natural sparkling wine - an exciting and fresh style that’s growing in popularity. This fizzing and sherbet-y chardonnay has tart and juicy aromatics of fresh pears and lemon meringue.
If it looks slightly hazy in the glass that’s because of the natural sediment in the wine. The Pet Nat method involves transferring the wine from tank to bottle mid-fermentation and allowing the yeast to naturally create carbon dioxide and bubbles.
This off-dry wine tastes like citrus popping candy and crunchy green apples, it’s an interesting mix, but really quite delightful.
The one to drink while grazing on salty, crumbly cheeses and crackers before supper on Christmas eve.
Buy now £22.00, Woolton Farm
Woolton Sparkling Rose 2014
For special occasions, this award-winning sparkling rose from Woolton Farm is tart and fruity, but richly creamy at the same time. It makes a gently fizzing, but lively entrance on your palate with notes of roasted nuts, lemon and summer berries.
A dry pinot noir and chardonnay blend, it’s well balanced with notes of juicy berry and creamy autolytic notes of buttery brioche.
The one to eat with a slice of rich and decadent chocolate christmas cake.
Buy now £36.00, Woolton Farms
This is a well-balanced red wine from the (very extensive) English wine selection at Waitrose. It’s a well-priced and unusual option, being something of a rarity in Welsh vineyards.
It certainly has a complex flavour profile of sweet dark cherry notes and a peppery, oaky finish, which left our testers divided.
Buy now £14.99, Waitrose
Chapel Down Brut NV
The award-winning Brut NV from Chapel Down is a classic English sparkling wine made using the Traditional Method with a blend of the Kent vineyard’s four classic grape varieties.
It’s a vibrant and elegant wine, with notes of juicy, crisp red apple and citrus fruits. This bubbly is easy to drink and makes the perfect pairing with delicate canapés.
Buy now £27.95, Chapel Down
Hattingley Valley Reserve Still White 2020
This still white from Hattingley Valley is well-balanced and very easy to drink. It’s pale in colour with a delightful citrus aroma. It also has a hint of oak to it that compliments, and adds a creaminess to the zingy punch of pear and apple flavours.
We drank this with a creamy risotto and thought it matched wonderfully. Highly recommend pairing this with similar rich and indulgent meals over the festive period.
Buy now £25.00, Hattingley Valley
Boco by House Coren
This fizz is produced in West Sussex by House Coren, and steers away from traditional English methods of producing sparkling wine by using the Charmant method. This uses a secondary fermentation process that gives wine an added acidity for a fresh and clean finish.
Bearing some similarities to a prosecco, but much less sweet. It has a bright, fruity flavour and a sharpness that would work well paired with an indulgent dessert or in a decadent peach bellini.
We also loved the colourful branding and label, which sets it apart from other sparkling wines.
Buy now £26.00, House Coren
Gusbourne Brut Reserve
If looking for a good sparkling wine for toasting and bringing in the 2022 in style, then you can’t go wrong with this classic and fresh sparkling wine blend from the Kent-based Gusbourne estate.
It’s bright gold colour, together with it’s crisp aromas of cherry and strawberry will elevate any occasion worth toasting. It’s a refreshing tipple with a clean and balanced palate of citrus and soft stone fruit.
Fill up your best coupes, and see in the New Year with this sparkling wine.
Buy now £39.00, Gusbourne
Hattingley Valley Still Pinot Noir 2020
The first pinot red from the producers at Hattingley, this bold, bright and juicy red was grown in the baking hot summer of lockdown in 2020.
Although not generally a Pinot Noir lover, we thoroughly enjoyed this one with a big bowl of rich tomato pasta. It was easy to drink, with bright berry flavours and subtle tannins that didn’t feel too astringent.
Buy now £25.00, Hattingley Valley
Bolney Winemakers Edition
As ardent red wine fans, we loved this well-balanced and medium-bodied red wine from the Bolney Wine Estate. It was deliciously smoky, and easy to drink with hints of black pepper and dark cherry.
It’s well-balanced flavours make this a versatile choice for pairing with meat dishes, so would work well on the Christmas lunch table. We enjoyed this one on it’s own however, and proved to be a crowd-pleaser when shared with friends.
Buy now £20.00, Bolney Wine Estate
Toasting to the year ahead calls for bubbles and this option from Sussex-based Bolney wine estate is a great option. It’s a floral bouquet of honeysuckle and elderflower with notes of zesty citrus that cut through the sweetness easily. The sparkling wine is well balanced and delicate, with a floral freshness and creamy hint of brioche.
The Bolney Wine Estate is one of the longest established vineyards in the UK, their sandstone soils produce some award-winning wines.
We thought this worked well on it’s own, it’s easy to drink and delicately sweet. The one to toast in the New Year or for champagne-style cocktails before noon.
Buy now £28.00, Bolney
Hattingley Blanc de Blanc
This is an excellent quality, stylish and elegant sparkling Chardonnay wine. It’s citrus and peach aromas are balanced beautifully with the creaminess you get from the delicate bubbles and hints of brioche on the palate.
This is the one you want with your most elegant cheese board when on hosting duties, or if you’re feeling truly decadent, paired with smoked salmon during breakfast. A really delicious wine.
Buy now £39.50, Hattingley
Lyme Bay Shoreline
We enjoyed this clean and fresh white wine blend from Waitrose. Combining a Bacchus with Chardonnay, Seyval Blanc, Reichensteiner and Pinot Blanc grapes grown in Essex, Dorset and Hertfordshire. It’s a zingy white, with crunchy green apple and citrus peel notes. The wine also has a hint of herbal and floral elements, and works well served extra cold.
The zippy acidity on the palate might not be for everyone but works well with something fried and crispy (we personally enjoyed it with a fish finger sandwich).
Buy now £14.99, Waitrose